Diabetes: Treatment and Prevention

Diabetes: Treatment and Prevention

Can you tell me the difference between type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal and people with the disease have problems converting food to energy. Food is broken down into a simple sugar called glucose and is carried by the blood to cells throughout the body. Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas and used by the cells to help regulate blood glucose levels. People develop type 2 diabetes because the cells in the muscles, liver, and fat initially are resistant to the effects of insulin and then eventually become insulin deficient. Pre-diabetes refers to the condition where a person’s blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. This may be a result of your body not making enough insulin. Most often, people with pre-diabetes have no obvious symptoms and it isn’t uncommon for the disease to develop so gradually that it goes unnoticed. If it goes unchecked, some long-term damage can occur to the heart and the circulatory system.

What are the symptoms of type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes strikes people of all ages and early symptoms are subtle. It’s estimated that one out of three people with type 2 diabetes don’t know they have it. One of the first symptoms of type 2 diabetes may be an increase in thirst. This is often accompanied by additional problems, including dry mouth, increased appetite, frequent urination, unusual weight loss or gain, headaches, blurred vision, fatigue, and infections.

Are there risk factors for diabetes and what are the complications of the disease?

Being overweight is the single most important risk factor. Other risk factors include use of tobacco, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. If you are overweight and have high blood pressure or a family history of diabetes, you should talk to your primary care physician about a diabetic screening. Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease, loss of vision, and other serious complications.

What is the procedure for diagnosing diabetes?

A simple blood test can diagnose diabetes. Called an A1C test, it gives a snapshot of your blood glucose level over the past two to three months. An A1C level of 6.5 percent or more is consistent with the diagnosis of diabetes. A fasting plasma glucose test is another option. You must not eat for eight hours before the test. A result above 126 is considered diabetes.

Can pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes be prevented?

Prevention is your best tool to avoid pre-diabetes or diabetes. If you or your doctor think you are at risk for diabetes, you can start now with moderate, daily exercise and begin making healthier dietary choices. According to the American Diabetes Association, recent studies have shown that if people with pre-diabetes reduce their weight by 5 to 10 percent and increase their physical activity, they can significantly delay or even prevent the onset of diabetes. Exercise is extremely important for preventing diabetes. That means vigorous walking to get your heart rate up or any other type of exercise that helps you work up a sweat. Weight loss is also extremely important in the prevention of diabetes. About 80 percent of diabetics are overweight and excess weight has been shown to contribute to the development of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed by making lifestyle changes such as eating less fat and fewer calories and exercising a total of 150 minutes a week.

What resources are available at Weeks Medical Center to learn more about diabetes?

Please schedule an appointment with our certified diabetes educator, Mary Beth Kenison at 603-788-5095 for more information. In addition, a diabetes support group meets the third Tuesday of the month at 7:00 pm in the Weeks cafeteria. We also recommend the American Diabetes Association website: diabetes.org. It offers excellent educational information about diabetes.

By Mary Beth Kenison, APRN

Mary Beth Kenison is a certified diabetes educator. Appointments can be made by calling 603-788-5095.